“Traffic Jam” or “Traffic Jammed”?

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For all our Muslim listeners, on behalf of the My English Matters team, I want to take a moment to wish you Happy Eid, or Eid Mubarak!

Here in Malaysia we like to say, Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir Batin!

This is an English-learning podcast, so what that means is “Happy Eid” and we hope you’ll forgive us for any wrongdoings, whether spiritually or outwardly.

Now it may sound strange when literally translated to English like that, but it is a part of our culture – a humble way of wishing someone a blessed Eid celebration and at the same time, a way of renewing relationships between family and friends.  

So, in the spirit of Eid, I want to talk about a phrase that is commonly expressed during the weeks leading up to and after Eid.

The phrase “traffic jam”.

Listen to the episode here.

You can also listen to this episode on SpotifyApple Podcasts or Google Podcasts.

My family and I spent the first day of Eid in Kuala Lumpur, with my husband’s side of the family. And we went to Kelantan on the second day of Eid.

Kelantan is a state on the east coast of this country (in case you’re not familiar with the states of Malaysia).

My siblings and I are from Kuala Lumpur, but our mother and late father were born and raised in Kelantan. They moved to Kuala Lumpur after they got married.

Now my mother has moved back to Kelantan. She’s been there for several years now, so we would usually travel to the east coast to celebrate Eid  with her and enjoy some good old Kelantan food.

So on the morning of the second day of Eid, we packed up our bags, and took the 8-hour journey to Pasir Puteh, Kelantan.

The roads were relatively clear, there was no congestion. We arrived at our destination at around 5 PM.

And after a few days there, we made our  way back to Kuala Lumpur, which was last weekend as I write this post.

Because it was the weekend before the school holidays ended, the roads were congested.

In other words, we got caught in the heavy traffic jams along the highway.

Now my husband expects me not to fall asleep as he drives for these long journeys, so we try to have fruitful conversations and catch up on life to keep him entertained.

Plus, we rarely get to have long conversations without the kids interrupting us every few seconds. And in the car, the kids are usually asleep.

In one of our conversations, I told him that I had to record an episode for My English Matters and asked him to let me know if he had any ideas for any topic I could talk about.

Well, after a few hours of “fruitful” conversation, the sleepy bug caught me and I almost fell asleep. Almost.

As I was falling into slumber, my husband suddenly exclaimed, “I have an idea. Why don’t you talk about the phrase “traffic jam”? Is it “traffic jam” or “traffic jammed?”

And so I quickly wrote down this idea in my phone (I literally sent myself a WhatsApp messafe – I’m old school) in case I ended up falling asleep and completely forgetting the whole idea.

Which now brings me to the topic that I want to teach today.

What is the difference between “traffic jam” and “traffic jammed”?

The terms “traffic jam” and “traffic jammed” refer to similar situations of traffic congestion, but they are used differently in English due to their grammatical roles:

“Traffic jam” is used to describe a situation or condition where traffic is heavily congested and vehicles are either moving very slowly or are completely stopped.

For example, you might say, “I was late because there was a huge traffic jam on the highway.”

The term “traffic jammed” is an adjective phrase to describe the condition of a location being congested due to traffic. 

This phrase is less common and may sound somewhat awkward or less natural to native speakers, but it is used to depict the state resulting from traffic congestion.

For example: “The highway was traffic jammed for hours after the accident.”

Using “jammed” as an adjective extends beyond traffic scenarios and can be applied to various contexts.

“Jammed” in general contexts refers to something that is blocked or stuck, such as “The drawer is jammed” meaning it cannot be opened because something inside is obstructing it or it is malfunctioning.

When related to traffic, “jammed” indicates a state where traffic is heavily congested, typically immobilising vehicles.

For example, “The roads are jammed” suggests that the traffic is very slow or completely halted.

So in traffic contexts, when you say, “The road is jammed,” it implies that the road is congested with traffic, leading to slow movement or a standstill.

Just remember:

  • “Traffic jam” as a noun phrase is straightforward and widely used. It specifically names the phenomenon of traffic congestion.
  • “Traffic jammed” as an adjective phrase (though less commonly used in everyday English) serves to describe a place or a route affected by heavy traffic.


Both terms deal with traffic congestion, but their usage and grammatical roles differ, with “traffic jam” being the more commonly preferred and understood term in everyday language.

So I hope this episode is useful for you. It’s a short, fun one that applies to what we are facing at this moment – especially this month because we can expect a lot of traffic jams as people visit each other for Eid events on the weekends!

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Hi there!

We’re Azimah, Amnah and Aisya from Malaysia. We created My English Matters as an online platform to help people improve their English.

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